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An Editing Checklist To Help You Revise Your Nonfiction Book Is A Game Changer: Part 9

Download our FREE Nonfiction Book Editing Checklist to make the revising of your business or nonfiction book clear and simple!

by Jenna Kalinsky.

In 1935, when up-and-comer Boeing entered their technologically advanced aircraft into a bid to be used by the U.S. Air Force, their plane crashed upon take off, killing everyone on board.

What happened? This plane was far superior to the competition, so what happened?

One tiny thing was what happened- or didn’t. The pilot, in having to remember to do a number of different things pre-flight, simply forgot to flick on a switch.

After the accident, Boeing introduced the use of a pre-take off checklist. By standardizing protocols, they changed how people could approach high stakes situations- and manage the many steps involved- forever.

A checklist for editing your nonfiction book- while not life saving (in the same way, anyway) saves your bacon in other respects.

Now that you’ve reached the point in writing this book to support your business, you’ve shifted away from being a writer, freely generating ideas, into an editor, who must now calculatedly and strategically restructure the book.

If you’re not trained in the art and craft of editing a book, this phase can feel overwhelming and even stop some writers altogether. How do you know what issues to look for, and what do you do when you find them?

A Revision Editing Checklist to Revise Your Nonfiction Book Is a Game Changer

A revision editing checklist will offer you a play-by-play of exactly what structural components to look for so you can begin to revise your nonfiction book.

Overhauling a Manuscript: Seeing Revision as Topiary

What is Revision? Revision (or “re-vision”) is the art of re-seeing, or substantially overhauling, a manuscript by shaping it into the reading experience it will come to be.

This is a very necessary next stage of writing a book. When you were in writer mode, you poured everything out into the draft. Your job was not to worry about structuring the material as you wrote; your job was solely to get everything you wanted or could out of your head and onto the page. The wisdom behind this tactic is the more material you have to work with, the more opportunity you have to shape the book into what you want it to become.

A great analogy for revision or substantive/content editing (as it is called in editorial parlance) is topiary; you start with a big unwieldy bush and through some calculated whacking, you begin to see a rough outline of the swan or camel emerging. In time and with more whacking, it ultimately comes to resemble that animal, until finally it gallops away, a fully formed thing of its own.

three round trees and shrubs mike enerio for One Lit Place at

Photo credit: Mike Enerio

My undergrad students have always tittered at this (a perennially easy crowd: I mean, really; all I have to do is say “whack at your bush,” and they’re off!), but I love the metaphor because unlike marble or clay, shrubs are living things that you have no control over as they grow … (quite like a book manuscript, which, because it is borne of your unconscious mind, will go into marvellous interesting territory if allowed to roam freely.)

So while now you might be cursing how free-range you let yourself go during the writing phase, it’s again important to remember that now you have a ton of great material to work with.  The downside is … now you have a ton of great material you have to shape into a book.

With Revision Comes the Overhaul

Now you’re going to significantly restructure the manuscript by targeting key issues in the work: you will make sure the ideas have logical progression, the premise is specific, concrete and delivered fluidly, and overall that you are providing a comfortable, competent reading experience that supports what you do in your business.

So you do not have to attempt this process alone,

Download Our FREE Nonfiction Book Editing Checklist!

notebook and stack of antique books

Substantive Editing: A New Skill Set

Quite like being a passenger for all your years, then suddenly plunking down in the driver’s seat for the first time and realizing with some excitement and small amount of shame that you have no idea what to do- not even how to turn the darn thing on- despite having sat right beside the driver for your entire life, such is now being tasked with editing your own writing.

You’ve been reading books since you were small and writing since you could hold a pencil. Also as a business owner you have a vast body of knowledge you have spoken to in your draft (and articulately at points even, thank you very much!)

Yet editing is a whole different affair, and it may feel disorienting to recognize that you don’t know how to go about the art and craft of shaping your book. This is fair; while writing comes from intuition, passion, and an innate awareness of how ideas and language work, substantive editing is tactical and requires a very specific skill set, one that editors train in and spend years honing on books just like yours.

close up dictionary definition editor for One Lit Place at


A Nonfiction Book Editing Checklist

To help you continue to work on your book for your business, I’ve created a comprehensive substantive editing checklist to help you perform this level of edit on your own. Each of the points in the FREE downloadable checklist is designed to help you attend to the various structural issues of the draft, ensuring overall it is fluid, clearly constructed, well-developed, fully voiced, and ultimately valuable time spent for your reader.


The downloadable file is FREE and yours to keep and reference as many times as you like (and re-use for all the books you end up writing). The checklist goes through all of the substantive editing points you will need to attend to:

  • Ensure the book’s “Big Idea” is specific and purposeful, and that each chapter is in service to it
  • Identify whether the information of each chapter has logical progression and is balanced
  • Check for consistency issues such as voice and pacing
  • Sculpt your persona to match your brand and your ultimate goal for the project to maximize reader takeaway.

You will find having this checklist- as opposed to winging it alone- is a game changer.

Next in the series: “Part 10: 3 Essentials You Need to Nail in Your Substantive Edit.”

In Part 10, I’ll discuss:

A. Crafting a strong and dynamic introduction that uses the journalist’s 5 WH questions

B. Building paragraphs that follow the problem-action-result model

C. Ways to keep the right company in your work.

If you’d like to see the entire blog series, How to Write a Book for Your Business, click HERE to begin.

2 Responses

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